Eviction served on fire department, businesses in polygamous Arizona town

The Salt Lake Tribune/October 7, 2014

By Nate Carlisle

A Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints storehouse and the Colorado City, Ariz., Fire District are the latest recipients of eviction notices in the polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona border.

A slew of businesses in Colorado City also received eviction notices dated Sept. 30. The notices gave the tenants five days to vacate or face eviction proceedings in the Arizona courts.

Ross Chatwin, a Colorado City resident who was booted from the FLDS by President Warren Jeffs more than a decade ago, said the fire department received an eviction notice at an auxiliary building it uses at 220 E. Township Ave. The main fire department offices were not served.

A request for comment left Monday at the fire department offices was not returned.

The FLDS bishop’s storehouse at 250 W. Township Ave. in Colorado City was one of two locations where people loyal to Jeffs could pick up food, some of which was manufactured or packaged at some of the same businesses who have received eviction notices.

The other location where Jeffs loyalists could pick up food, Chatwin said, was Barlow University, an unaccredited school at 160 N. Memorial St.

“If [the FLDS] don’t find a new place to distribute food, people are going to be starving,” Chatwin said.

All the properties that received eviction notices belong to, and the notices have been served by, the United Effort Plan — a trust formerly controlled by the FLDS.

The state of Utah seized the UEP in 2005 out of concerns FLDS President Warren Jeffs was mismanaging the trust.

The court-appointed fiduciary, Bruce Wisan, has asked tenants to sign occupancy agreements and pay $100 a month to live or operate businesses on UEP property. Jeffs has ordered his followers not to pay or cooperate with Wisan.

This summer, Utah 3rd District Court Judge Denise Lindberg approved a plan to start serving eviction notices on delinquent tenants. A batch of evictions were served in July on homes in Hildale, Utah.

No homes on the Arizona side have received eviction notices because many Colorado City lots are not yet subdivided. Multiple homes appear as one piece of property at the county recorder’s office.

Wisan has said he is willing to reach an agreement with anyone who receives an eviction notice.

Chatwin said there’s no indication the businesses that received the Sept. 30 eviction notices intend to challenge in court. Chatwin said tractor-trailers have been steadily removing equipment and personal property at the businesses since Saturday.

That includes Products Unlimited, a food processing company that — until recently — was located at 385 N. Willow St. in Colorado City.

Company President John Gilbert, when reached by telephone, denied any eviction had been served and then hung up.

Chatwin, who has seen the notice, says it has been served.

Chatwin said Products Unlimited had about 100 people working there, though they weren’t necessarily receiving paychecks.

Wisan and other Hildale and Colorado City watchers had hoped the economies in the two towns would improve at the UEP slowly sells commercial and agricultural properties and puts the real estate into private hands.

While the latest slate of evictions would seem contrary to the economic goal, Chatwin believes the impact is minimal.

“Everyone of those businesses that are moving right now never would have hired me in the first place because I’m not FLDS,” Chatwin said. “Those businesses only would hire” people loyal to Jeffs.

Other Colorado City businesses who have been served eviction notices, according to Chatwin, who has seen the notices:

• Meadowayne Dairy. Served at its facilities at 765 W. Arizona Ave.; 268 N. Oak St.; and 220 N. Juniper St.

• Jessoco, a construction company. Served at 580 W. Mohave Ave.

• Ideal Mechanical. Served at 375 W. Academy Ave.

• Zions Designs. Served at 60 W. Township Ave.

• Dezereta Gas Station. Served at 15 N. Central St.

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